Home for Two Games

Arkansas comes to Oxford with a hot record and a bad loss. The Razorbacks lost at home to Mississippi State Saturday by 14.

Before that, the Hogs were on a roll with wins over Oklahoma and Texas, two of the highly-ranked teams in the country.

Speaking of rankings, the Razorbacks' loss to the Bulldogs kept them out of the Top 25. The Southeastern Conference needed an Arkansas win.

That's because Tennessee, at No. 24, is the only SEC men's ballclub ranked in the AP poll this week. And no SEC team is found in the Coaches' Poll.

Tough times nationally for the SEC. But still the race is on, and Ole Miss hosts Arkansas with some confidence.

So what kept a 20-point deficit at Florida from turning into a 30-point loss rather than the 10-point setback which resulted for the Rebels?

Focus and rebounding were obvious keys, and Andy Kennedy said so. The Rebels didn't really get rattled and actually appeared to grow up some as the game moved on. And the rebounding edge of 24 for Ole Miss was a key, even though stats can sometimes be misleading. But 46-22? That's quite the edge no matter the number of misses or makes.

"We talked about several areas before the (Florida) game," Kennedy said. "One was confidence. We had to approach the game with confidence, and that's easier said than done. For a lot of our guys, it was the first time they'd been in a situation like that or in a role they are currently in.

"We talked about composure and handling the crowd and the emotion. I had no idea they (Gators) were going to shoot the ball that well early (nearly 80 percent the first 10 minutes). From a composure standpoint, we didn't handle it early. We got more comfortable as we got back into the game. And we competed. We have to compete at a very, very high level, and I was proud of that aspect."

Kennedy said some of Florida's early success came on shots they would want the Gators to take again.

"Sometimes during the ebb and flow of the game, you don't understand how hard those shots are," he said. "At the end of every game, we'll chart what we determine as hard shots, shots that we would ask the opponent to make again, which are less than 40 percent shots. They had like 22 points at the beginning of the game that we would want them to take again, challenged deep jump shots."

He also admitted the Rebels' offensive charting showed a number of shots his team missed that they would take again - and hopefully make the next time.

As the Rebels continued to play hard at Florida and remained focused without getting too frustrated, their offensive production picked up and their board work was the best it had been all season.

Although they left Gainesville with renewed confidence which still shows this week, the next game is always a mystery. With a young and inexperienced squad of players whose roles have changed since the season started, it's hard to predict what's next.

What appeared to be a step forward in the Indoor Swamp could just as easily turn around and be a step or two back on their own home court Wednesday night.

Arkansas, 12-2 overall and 0-1 in SEC play, was by most accounts picked last or next to last in the SEC West in the preseason. There were a number of Hog departures after last season. A lot of new faces and inexperienced players had months to prepare, which has shown so far.

The Rebels have had to deal with adversity after adversity the past couple of months. But they've handled things well to this point and now have two in a row at home (LSU is here Saturday at 3 p.m.).

One thing that would help them in both is a decent crowd of support. Fans are not immune to having to handle some setbacks and disappointments in a sports season as well. Certainly there have been enough for them to become complacent about this team.

Taking a cue from the Rebels and how they've handled things lately would be wise.

Kennedy said his 9-6 squad is learning to push through some situations they thought perhaps they could not.

"Malcolm (White) is OK, but he did turn his ankle (vs. UF) and there was some swelling," he said. "It was a pretty good turn. Zach (Graham) has got a little bit of a hip-pointer. We'll try to tape them together and go out and try to get better."

Kennedy said it can be a balancing act when it comes to pushing a team that has had some injuries or continues to have some bumps and bruises as a season progresses. But he also says there is no way for players to get better without practice time.

"This is a game of rhythm and flow," he said. "You need to practice, most especially these young guys. They need reps. There is a fine line."

If recent history is an indicator, the Rebs should feel just fine being back at home. Ole Miss has won 12 of its last 13 against Arkansas in Oxford. The lone loss in the stretch was by a single point, 66-65, in 2004-05.

Of course, most of the players involved in Wednesday night's game on both sides haven't been around for more than one of those, and in many cases not any.

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